Crested Gecko Enclosure – What is the Best Tank Setup?

Crested geckos and other reptiles make excellent pets. They’re clean and quiet, don’t shed, and are quite easy to care for.

However, unlike cats or dogs, cresties need a specially dedicated enclosure. You can’t let your pet roam freely and unsupervised. This is neither healthy nor safe for the gecko.

So, how should you house your gecko? You’ll need a sturdy and roomy enclosure. What you put in the enclosure is equally important. Geckos aren’t domesticated animals.

So, you need to closely mimic their natural living conditions in captivity. Keep reading to learn how to create the perfect setup for your reptile friend!

Crested Gecko Enclosure Types

The enclosure, also known as a vivarium, is the first thing you’ll need when housing a crested gecko.

This is a small space you decorate and fit with heating and other equipment. It helps keep your gecko safe and comfortable in your home.

The enclosure doesn’t have to be anything specific. You can choose between various containers. Each type has its pros and cons.

Some enclosures are easier to use than others, while some are best suited for experienced reptile keepers.

Here are the most common options:

– Glass Aquarium

A glass aquarium is an affordable and readily-available enclosure meant for fish and other aquatic and semi-aquatic animals.

Cresties are terrestrial pets, but glass aquaria can be a good housing option. With a few modifications, you can turn a glass aquarium into a perfectly livable vivarium for your pet.

Glass has both aesthetic and practical benefits. It’s scratch-resistant and sturdy enough to keep your pet safe. This material can also prevent overheating, and it traps humidity efficiently.

You can easily find fitted mesh lids for most aquarium sizes as well. You’ll need one when creating ventilation in the enclosure.

Of course, there are also some downsides. Glass aquaria are transparent from all sides, leaving your gecko exposed.

Although it makes viewing more enjoyable for you, it can be stressful for your pet. Glass aquaria are also heavy and not shock-resistant.

– Acrylic Aquarium

Acrylic aquaria offer some of the same benefits as glass aquaria. These enclosures are meant for fish but can be easily modified into a hospitable gecko vivarium.

Acrylic is also more shock-resistant than glass and easier to modify without causing structural damage to the enclosure.

Acrylic aquaria are much lighter than glass and easier to move and maintain. However, they’re also pricier than glass aquaria.

Like their glass counterparts, acrylic aquaria are fully transparent and need additional modifications to obscure the sides and back.

– Gecko Terrarium/Vivarium

A special gecko enclosure is the best choice. Referred to as a gecko terrarium or vivarium, this enclosure type is made of either glass or plastic.

Each material has its pros and cons, as I’ve already mentioned above. Glass is heavy and sensitive to shock. Plastic is lightweight but not very scratch-resistant.

Gecko vivariums are pre-made to meet all your pet’s requirements. These enclosures need no modifications and come in various pre-set sizes, perfect for geckos of all ages and weights.

These enclosures have great ventilation, are escape-proof, and have a convenient bottom opening for easy cleaning and feeding.

These vivariums also have opaque panels on the sides and back. This makes viewing more difficult but makes all the difference for your gecko’s stress levels.

Of course, these enclosures are also pricier than a DIY aquarium recycling. But if you have a little extra money, this enclosure will make your life so much easier!

– Plastic Bin

Plastic bins and boxes are other cost-effective options for housing geckos, especially juveniles. These containers come in virtually all sizes and are cheap, lightweight, and very easy to modify.

DIY plastic box enclosures are a popular choice when breeding geckos. During maintenance cleanings, you can also use a plastic bin as a secondary enclosure.

A plastic bin with the proper dimensions will make a comfortable space for your pet. Plastic containers are usually fully opaque.

You’ll have to cut a large panel into one side of the box. This allows you to view your pet from the font and even doubles as a vent if you replace it with a mesh screen.

– Wooden Box

Some people prefer a wooden vivarium because of its natural look. These are often used for other reptile species but are rare for cresties.

They look very similar to other reptile vivariums, with obscured sides, a front opening, and multiple vents in the back.

Some gecko owners swear by these enclosures. However, there are a few downsides to wooden boxes. First of all, wood has poor resistance to humidity.

The high humidity in a gecko enclosure can lead to rapid molding and rot. The high humidity and high temperature can even make the wooden panels warp and lose shape.

Wooden boxes are also more difficult to decorate. As an arboreal reptile, cresties need plenty of ledges, vines, and other vertical climbing spaces.

Suction cups and glues have poor adherence to finished wood surfaces. Good luck getting any feeding ledge to stick to these walls!

– Mesh Cage

Finally, we have mesh cages. These are made of tough metal or plastic frames, and the walls are made of nylon, fiberglass, or plastic mesh panels.

These are normally made for rodents, but you can also use one to house your crestie.

Some benefits include low weight, easy maintenance, and accessible pricing. Mesh enclosures are also easy to mist and provide excellent ventilation. You’re highly unlikely to get mold problems using one of these.

On the other hand, mesh enclosures won’t trap heat and humidity well. They’re completely see-through from all sides, so you need to obscure the side and back panels yourself.

Since the walls are made of mesh material, you won’t be able to use suction cups to add suspended ledges.

Crested Gecko Enclosure Size

Once you’ve decided what type of enclosure you want, it’s time to choose the right size. Having the right-sized enclosure is very important for your gecko’s well-being.

After all, the enclosure’s where your pet spends most of its time. So, choose one that’s roomy enough to make your gecko feel comfy and at home!

The enclosure impacts a gecko’s feeding behavior, stress levels, and enrichment. What works for one gecko might not work for another, so you need to choose carefully.

First and most importantly, you need an enclosure that’s taller than it is wide. Geckos are arboreal reptiles and require plenty of vertical space to climb. A tall enclosure encourages this natural behavior.

But how tall and how wide exactly should it be? It depends on your geckos’ age and weight.

As geckos develop, their space needs increase. However, keeping a very young gecko in an adult-sized vivarium might not be a good idea.

An enclosure that’s too big makes feeding more difficult. On the other hand, a vivarium that’s too small can cause stress and discomfort.

Thus, you’d have to upgrade through different enclosure sizes as your pet grows. Here are the ideal enclosure dimensions for different gecko ages:

  • Hatchlings (0-12 weeks old): The minimum enclosure size for baby geckos is 8x8x12’’ (roughly the equivalent of 5 gallons). However, as the baby geckos develop, their ideal enclosure would be approximately 14x8x9”.
  • Juveniles (12 weeks-18 months old): By the time your geckos turn 12 weeks old, they’re officially sub-adults! Your gecko should weigh at least 5 grams now, and it’s ready to upgrade to a larger enclosure! A good enclosure size for juveniles is 12x12x18’’.
  • Adult (18-24 months old): Juveniles grow slower than hatchlings, so it will take up to 18 months for geckos to become fully-developed adults. By this stage, your gecko should weigh at least 30 grams. You have plenty of options now.

You can keep the adult gecko in the same 12x12x18” enclosure, as this is the minimum size for an adult. The largest enclosure where an adult gecko can still feed easily is 36x23x26”. This is also a good size if you plan to keep a breeding pair or a trio together.

Crested Gecko Tank Setup

So, you’ve decided on what type of enclosure you want and the right size. Now comes the fun part.

You’ll need to add things to the enclosure to make it look and feel natural. This includes various decorations and equipment to maintain stable parameters like temperature and humidity.

Let’s go through everything you need, one by one:

– Substrate

First, you need to line the vivarium floor with a substrate. The substrate plays an important role in maintaining suitable humidity levels.

It also helps crested geckos stay comfortable while walking on the ground of the enclosure.

The best substrate is one that maintains moisture well without molding. It should stay relatively lightweight and breathable even when holding water.

The substrate should also be easy to clean and non-toxic in case your gecko accidentally eats some of it.

Some good options include newspapers, paper towels, reptile carpets, and clay. Clay, in particular, makes a good base for combining other decorative elements like gravel, topsoil, play sand, stones, and slates.

– Heating

Crested geckos hail from the warm tropical rainforests of New Caledonia. They’ve naturally evolved to thrive in warm temperatures.

They need an enclosure temperature of 72-75°F to feel their best. Providing them with the right temperature encourages appetite, better growth, and breeding.

The easiest and safest way to achieve and maintain stable enclosure temperatures year-round is with a heating pad.

These are small devices that you place underneath the enclosure. You should also use a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature.

Since crested geckos are cold-blooded creatures, they rely entirely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. Geckos can’t warm up or cool down by themselves. Thus, it’s best to create a heat gradient in the enclosure.

One end of the enclosure (where you’ll put the heat pad) should go up to 80°F, while the other end stays cooler. Your pet will shift between these areas to warm up or cool down as needed.

– Lighting

Lighting is another important part when replicating a gecko’s natural diet in captivity.

Light exposure has many benefits for your pet, including reduced stress, a healthy sleep cycle, and, in some cases, better bone health.

There are two main types of light sources you can use in the enclosure:

UV light: Ultraviolet light, specifically UVB, is most commonly used for reptiles due to its positive effects on reptiles’ health.

UV light is invisible to the human eye but has powerful benefits. When the gecko’s skin is exposed to UVB light, the body starts producing vitamin D.

This is a vital nutrient for the bones and healthy growth. However, you may not need to use UVB light in the enclosure if you feed your pet a diet with supplemental vitamin D.

If your pet’s diet contains no vitamin D, a UVB lightbulb is necessary.

Visible light: Unlike UV light, visible light is, well, visible. You don’t need a special UV index meter to see it.

Visible light may come in various forms, including LED and fluorescent lightbulbs. This light is indispensable in a gecko enclosure.

Crested geckos need 10-12 hours of visible light daily to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. Your gecko will hide and rest throughout the day or when the lights are on. It will come out to explore at night.

Without visual day or night cues, your gecko might become lethargic, disoriented, and stressed. Thus, visible light is a must. Including an additional UVB lightbulb is up to you.

– Humidity

Geckos need high humidity to maintain good skin health and shed their skin when molting. Ideally, the humidity in the enclosure should be at a constant 60-80%.

Humidity above 80% will lead to respiratory problems, while humidity under 50% can cause severe dehydration and incomplete shedding.

So, how do you keep this value within range? The easiest and most efficient way is by misting the gecko’s enclosure with plain, filtered water.

Misting twice a day for half a minute does the trick for most enclosure types. You’ll also need a moisture-retaining substrate to keep the enclosure from drying too rapidly.

Last but not least, you’ll need a hygrometer. It’s essential when setting up your gecko’s enclosure. This trusty equipment allows you to measure the humidity effortlessly and accurately.

This way, you’ll know when it’s time to mist again or when the enclosure is getting too humid.

– Decoration

Decorations might seem like an extra, but they’re actually an important part of your gecko’s enrichment.

Geckos are arboreal and nocturnal animals, and décor plays a big role in encouraging their natural behaviors.

Crested geckos can be skittish and timid. They also don’t like being exposed to strong light. They need plenty of foliage and hides to feel safe and comfortable.

Shaded areas also allow them to rest throughout the day. Whether live or fake, plants are a must-have for geckos.

To make everything look more natural and interesting, you may also add other décors, such as cork bark, hide boxes, or moss.

You must ensure your gecko has plenty of climbing toys and decorations. Include plenty of branches, vines, platforms, and feeding ledges.

– Ventilation

Last but not least, we have ventilation. You must ensure the enclosure is well-ventilated to avoid condensation and mold.

With the high humidity and temperature needed for reptiles, things can get ugly quickly. Luckily, you don’t need to do much to keep the enclosure ventilated.

Most gecko enclosures come with pre-made vents at the bottom and top of the vivarium. If you’re using an improvised enclosure like an aquarium or plastic bin, you’ll have to create the vents yourself.

This is pretty easy, especially if you’re working with a plastic or acrylic enclosure.

Ideally, you want the air to circulate from the bottom and up. You’ll need some vents on the lid and on one side on the lower half of the enclosure.

For the top part, you can use an aquarium mesh lid. These are pre-made and easy to fit.

For the side, you should cut one opening on the enclosure’s lower half and seal it with a sturdy mesh material.

You can find plenty of YouTube tutorials on how to do it. Check out these here and here for starters.

Crested Gecko Enclosure Placement

Once you’re done setting up the enclosure, it’s time to choose a location for your gecko.

Enclosure placement seems like an afterthought to many. But where you put the enclosure is very important.

Choosing the wrong location will raise your pet’s stress levels and might even make it harder to maintain proper humidity and temperature parameters. So, where should you put the vivarium?

The perfect spot should meet the following requirements:

  • Low-circulated and low-noise area: Crested geckos are skittish creatures. They jump at any strange noise or movement. Exposing them to constant stimuli is a surefire way to stress them out.

Besides, geckos are dormant throughout the day. They need a low-noise space to rest and relax. Keep them enclosure away from doors, televisions, noisy appliances, or high-traffic areas like hallways and living rooms.

  • Away from sources of heat or ventilation: Your #1 priority when keeping geckos is ensuring a constant temperature and humidity levels. Keeping the enclosure in the wrong spot will make this more difficult, if not impossible.

Sharp deviations in enclosure parameters can lead to health problems like heat stroke, respiratory infections, or incomplete shedding. Avoid placing the enclosure in cold rooms, in direct sunlight, next to windows or doorways, next to radiators, ventilators, AC units, etc.

  • At waist height or higher: Crested geckos get startled easily, and it takes a while to gain their trust. The last thing you want is to scare your pet whenever you go checking on it.

So, make sure the enclosure sits high enough for your gecko to see you. The enclosure should sit at waist level or higher. Ideally, your crestie should be able to climb up to your eye level or higher.

  • An area you frequent daily: You know that saying— “Out of sight, out of mind.” Well, this can be a bad thing sometimes. You want your gecko in a quiet, low-circulated area. But you don’t want to tuck it away somewhere you never go and forget about it.

After all, there are quite a few things you have to remember. Misting multiple times a day, cleaning the enclosure regularly, feeding, and bonding with your pet are some of those things. It’s easy to forget some of these if you don’t have a daily reminder.

Conclusion

The ideal enclosure for a crested gecko should be tall and roomy enough for your pet’s age and weight. Most adult geckos can live comfortably in an enclosure that’s at least 12x12x18’’.

This space is enough for your gecko to move freely, and you still have room to add the substrate, decorations, and feeding ledges.

There are various enclosures available, including some DIY options. Whether you go for a pre-made reptile vivarium or a modified plastic box, remember the enclosure must have good ventilation.

Placement matters too. Remember to put the vivarium in a quiet area with a stable room temperature.

Crested Geckos   Geckos   Reptiles   Updated: January 10, 2023
avatar I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets.

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